The business world has spoken about the need for unified communications platforms for more than a decade, and for good cause. In an era where instant gratification rules the roost, the absence of a single view of all communication results in organisations quite literally leaving new business on the table and losing existing customers to competitors.
To understand how we arrived at this point, let’s take a brief journey back in time. Not too long ago – there are many people who remember these days – it was simple for a company to have a record of all communications in and out of a business because it all occurred via a private branch exchange (PBX) system – whether it was customers, suppliers or private calls, the receptionist would filter the call to the relevant person.
At the end of the month, the business could ask the PBX vendor for a call history report that they could then analyse and pick up trends. Albeit delayed, there was more governance as the company had visibility of the business and private calls.
This model was disrupted, some would say destroyed, by the advent of the mobile phone. Now, the call would come in and a receptionist would take down a number and pass it to a company representative that would pick up a mobile phone and make a call to the customer. In this instance, the company had no visibility of these channels, which posed a big risk for quality control as well as salespeople taking customers with them when they left the business.
To compound this, social media has led to another disruption. If the company lines are down, it is quite easy for a service account manager to set up a WhatsApp group – which would need to be POPIA compliant now – to manage an account that way. Again, the company loses the ability to audit things such as the timeframe and flow from problem to resolution.
It is glaringly obvious that as more channels are used, disparate channels can become a nightmare for a business that wishes not only to delight its customers but also to win more and grow market share. Without an omnichannel solution, where there is a unified, single view of all communications, the business is always playing catch-up… in the dark.
Imagine this scenario for a moment: A customer calls in and is greeted by a contact centre agent. The customer says she sent an email two hours ago and is still waiting for a response. Without a single view, with full and up-to-date context, the call centre agent would have to ask who the customer emailed, what the query was, and then try to track down the person who deals with emails during the timeframe it was sent.
Now imagine a contact centre agent working with a unified communications platform: An angry customer calls in. The agent greets her: “Hello Mrs Dlamini.” Mrs Dlamini tells the agent why she is annoyed, and empowered by a single-view interface with relevant context, the agent answers: “I see the email you sent and apologise that it has not yet been resolved, but the answer is…”
Which scenario results in the happier customer and contact centre agent? The answer to this question is precisely the reason unified communications platforms have been spoken about for so many years, and why we have seen some platforms come and go that were either ahead of their time or incapable of doing what they set out to do. This has now all changed with sophisticated omnichannel platforms.
An omnichannel solution brings formerly disparate channels back together and glues them into a seamless, single view, whether it is voice, web chat, WhatsApp, or email.
The synchronicity of channels into a single view can be used to convert sales more efficiently and retain customers more successfully. By picking up unhappy instances and dealing with them quickly, a company can prevent customer churn and by being proactive with the right context and intelligence, a business can gain new customers. In a hyper-competitive world where customers have other options, first-time resolutions to problems are crucial.
Having a single-view interface allows for advanced analytics which enables an organisation to pick up trends, make predictions, and beef up or optimise certain channels – in almost real-time. This is heightened by advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic processes which are designed to augment, not replace human interaction.
Technology augmenting a unified communications platform optimises a business to drive first-time resolutions, which results in a better customer experience. This, in turn, drives the top line and market share growth.
As communications channels continue to evolve, businesses that wish to remain relevant must make provision for them in a single interface, then use them to their competitive advantage.
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